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Three questions with Jason Brown before U.S. Championships

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Jason Brown, a sensation at the 2014 U.S. Championships who vaulted himself onto the Sochi Olympic team, had a much different experience at the 2018 nationals. He placed sixth and missed the PyeongChang Olympic team.

In the time since, Brown moved from his longtime (and only) coach Kori Ade to Brian Orser in Toronto, Canada, where he now trains alongside world champions Yuzuru Hanyu of Japan and Javier Fernandez of Spain.

Brown opened this season with a fourth place finish at Autumn Classic. On the Grand Prix series, he was sixth at Skate Canada but rebounded for a silver at Grand Prix France (he actually won the short program ahead of Nathan Chen). Then, he won Golden Spin in December.

At his media teleconference ahead of nationals, he noted that his focus is on the big, four-year picture and that his progress has been slow and steady.

Here’s what we learned:

1. The changes he expected in his skating really started clicking after his second Grand Prix assignment.

“The biggest thing when I came to Toronto, they sat me down and talked to me about this 18-month process. Just to feel comfortable, it will take 18 months. I was very open about that and willing for the process of – that understanding that change takes time. I was definitely up for it, up for the challenge and up for whatever the progress looked like. At the beginning it was extremely difficult. I think I did find myself a little frustrated with how slow the progress was coming on or how long it really took me to get comfortable with what I was learning.”

“That being said, I always had that perspective. They were always there to guide me and understood. They’ve done it with skaters in the past and it does take time. I was able to keep a level head through the whole thing and remain confident and really believing in the process. I think that’s what I’m still going through.”

“We work on quality every single day. All my elements and all my skating skills and all the programs. It’s constantly adapting. I’m making these tiny, tiny steps along the way. The thing that we’re most focused on right now is building a very strong base heading into the next four years. That’s really all that I can ask for and all that I’m focused on. That’s where my mentality is wrapped around.”

“I really do think that I hit this turning point in France and things started clicking. I really started to understand their technique. I think it’s just continued to get better from there.”

2. He had a small injury while skating at Golden Spin in early December, but still won the event.

“I sprained my ankle in Croatia. It was a little upsetting but it was what it was. It was small and it was nothing to make a big deal out of. We adjusted my program a little bit and I taped it up. I really didn’t bring any light to it because there’s really no light to be brought to it because it isn’t affecting me and I’m continuing to train the best that I can.”

3. Brown sees momentum building between himself and his new coaching staff, while also building on results from competition to competition.

“I’ve learned and I’ve gotten closer with my coaching team. And understanding the way they’re at in competition, the way that we do the six-minute warmups, our communication has gotten stronger and better. We’ve gotten to know each other a lot better in those situations. That’s a big momentum builder for me. There’s a bit of calmness, like, ‘Okay I’ve done this before’ with them. We have a routine. Early in the season, I was like, ‘I don’t really know what’s gonna happen! How’s it gonna go?’”

“That’s a huge momentum builder because there’s a lot more confidence that I have going in, knowing what to expect. There’s not as many surprises or unknown. That’s really helpful going into big events, being sure the way it’s gonna play out as far as our team as coach and athlete, and the expectations both ways.”

MORE: 3 questions with Bradie Tennell before the U.S. Championships

As a reminder, you can watch the U.S. Championships live and on-demand with the ‘Figure Skating Pass’ on NBC Sports Gold. Go to NBCsports.com/gold/figure-skating to sign up for access to every ISU Grand Prix and championship event, as well as domestic U.S. Figure Skating events throughout the season. NBC Sports Gold gives subscribers an unprecedented level of access on more platforms and devices than ever before.

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USOPC proposes more athletes on board as part of overhaul

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DENVER (AP) — The U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee is proposing an increase in athlete representation on its board and a recasting of its mission statement to include the job of promoting athletes’ well-being.

These changes are part of a proposal, released Monday, to rewrite the USOPC bylaws.

The rewrite comes 20 days after federal lawmakers — looking for a shake-up in the wake of the sex-abuse scandal that has tainted the U.S. Olympic movement — proposed their own drastic overhaul of the law governing the USOPC.

The USOPC portrayed its proposals as merely a first step, and, indeed, the measures lack many of Congress’ more aggressive proposals.

But they would heed athletes’ calls for more representation, by increasing their makeup on the board from 20% to 33%.

They would also change the mission statement to read: “empower Team USA athletes to achieve sustained competitive excellence and well-being,” where previously the well-being part was not mentioned.

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Why a 62-year-old played at the world badminton championships

Mathew Fogarty
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Mathew Fogarty said badminton’s European elite made fun of him for playing professionally at age 59. That was three years ago. Fogarty still competes at the sport’s highest level, taking part in the world championships that began Monday in Basel, Switzerland.

Fogarty, who turns 63 on Oct. 30, is older than any U.S. Olympian in any sport since the St. Louis 1904 Games, according to the OlyMADMen.

“I play because I can, and I’m a doctor, and I think sports is a really important part of people’s health and fitness,” said Fogarty, who has played competitively since age 7, whose full-time job is a psychoanalyst and who is based in the Los Angeles area. “I’ll stop badminton when I can no longer qualify. There’s still opportunity, and I love the sport. I’m going to continue to do the best I can.”

He lost in the first round of mixed doubles at worlds on Monday. Fogarty and partner Isabel Zhong, a 27-year-old with an IMBD profile, saw their world championships end in 23 minutes, a 21-9, 21-10 loss to a Ukrainian pair.

That was more competitive than Fogarty’s last two worlds appearances — a 21-6, 21-4 loss with Zhong in 2018 and a 21-2, 21-4 loss with another partner in 2017. Fogarty’s only international match wins in the last two years came via walkover or the one time his singles opponent retired after three points, according to his World Badminton Federation profile. He won an international tournament as recently as 2011 and said his career-high mixed doubles world ranking was 32.

He and Zhong paired because they were part of the same Manhattan Beach Badminton Club, and she wanted to qualify for the 2020 Tokyo Games, Fogarty said. Zhong did not respond to an interview request.

“I told her I didn’t know if we could do it, but we could try,” Fogarty said. “It’s extremely remote [chances] … slim to nil.”

The top mixed doubles team from the North and South American region is in line to qualify for the Olympics. The leaders in qualifying so far are Canadians ranked 19th in the world. Fogarty and Zhong, though they are the only U.S. mixed doubles team at worlds, are 67th in the world in Olympic qualifying and third among Americans.

The U.S. has never earned an Olympic medal in badminton, which debuted at the 1992 Barcelona Games. Mixed doubles was added starting at Atlanta 1996, but the U.S. has put just one mixed team into an Olympics, getting swept out of pool play in Rio.

Fogarty, who has never played at the Olympics, is able to play at worlds for a few reasons: he can fund his way to international events to accumulate ranking points; the U.S. is historically weak and has a lack of players with professional ambitions; mixed doubles is the least common of the Olympic disciplines.

“Matt takes it seriously,” said Dean Schoppe, a fellow 62-year-old who has known and played with Fogarty for nearly a half-century. Schoppe recently retired from pro badminton himself. “Matt still approaches the matches with the actual idea of winning,”

Schoppe called Fogarty the best American junior player of his generation in the late 1970s.

“Most badminton players retire at about 26 or 27 with their first catastrophic injury, which is usually a torn Achilles,” he said. “There are people who are born [to play], you see it in every sport. Magic Johnson, they have the peripheral vision. They have the balance. They have all the intangibles that other people have to try to learn and can’t.

“He has the gift. He can look at you peripherally and see that you’re leaning. … Fogarty can hold the serve and turn his shoulders and do crap that makes you fall over, and that infuriates.”

Mathew Fogarty
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Fogarty took breaks from the sport for medical school in the 1980s and ’90s. He returned in the late 1990s and kept playing deep into his 40s, 50s and now 60s in part, he said, to challenge corruption within the sport.

Fogarty had legal battles with USA Badminton. He said that past officials broke up his Olympic hopeful partnership with a teenager in men’s doubles to push others toward the 2000 Sydney Games.

“The last thing they wanted was a 42-year-old with an 18-year-old trying to make the Olympics,” Schoppe said.

USA Badminton recently had mass resignations among its board and top officials amid reports of the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee threatening decertification.

USA Badminton’s new interim CEO, 1992 and 1996 Olympian Linda French, declined comment on Fogarty’s past issues with the organization because she was not formally involved at the time.

“We’re hopeful to move forward in a positive manner and wish all our athletes continued success,” French said.

Fogarty does not know how much longer he will travel the world, or even the U.S., to play competitively. A 43-year-old told him at a recent event that Fogarty was his inspiration to keep playing.

“The nature of sports is you can’t predict what it’s going to be,” Fogarty said.

Schoppe dismissed a question of whether it’s easier to play badminton at such a ripe age than other physically demanding sports.

“Imagine pulling out James Worthy and say, OK, James you are now starting for Golden State and you’re playing the Lakers tomorrow,” Schoppe said. “You cannot be old in badminton and do well in badminton. It’s nothing like baseball.

“We were the anomaly of anomalies to have success in our 40s. Nobody does.”

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